photo of James Watts James Watts
Plaza Mayor
Madrid, MADRID, 28005 Espa˝a

James Watts

James Watts
Internet Survivor


welcome home

Last year was an interesting one. It saw me take leave as the director of CakeDC, the commercial entity behind CakePHP, after three long, enjoyable and somewhat exhausting years at the helm. I then took a timeout with my family, but quickly got pulled into other projects, namely at Next Chance building startups. And now the time has come to leave that too.

For those who know me well know that I'm no good at standing still or relaxing. I just don't get the whole idea of not doing anything. I left home at 17 years old and started working. I founded my first company at 21. I raised capital for my first startup at 25. I became the director of a high profile company with international clients at 28, and then on to assume the role of CTO at 31. Oh, and in between I got married and became a dad. I literally have not stopped.

Working at Next Chance alongside Nicol├ís Luca de Tena has been a fun ride. Nicol├ís is a well known investor in Spain, and without a doubt one of the most avant garde in this space. He was also largely responsible for the acquisition of La Nevera Roja by Rocket Internet for ÔéČ80 million. I would lie if I said that I hadn't thoroughly enjoyed building amazing technical teams, and working on some awesome products.

It's been challenging, and maybe even frustrating at times, but also hugely gratifying when you see the results of the decisions you've taken positively impact other people in their professional careers. The appreciation and respect of those you've been leading is for sure one of the most satisfying feelings you can experience.

However, since my son was born, I've noticed that my perception of things has significantly changed. The value I attribute to something, and the priority in which I consider anything, is very different than those early days back when I joined CakeDC. Since then, I've realized that I basically became extremely efficient at bringing other people success. The issue is that recently I haven't been very motivated by what that success meant to me. I began to question what I was doing.

I'm not referring to the envy of it being someone else's dream, or simply wanting to be the one who calls the shots, but that the underlying mission isn't really aligned with who I want to be. And probably, more importantly, the person I want to portray to my son. I want to be able to say "follow your dreams, and be what you want to be" with a straight face, and without feeling like a hypocrite or a fraud.

If there's anything that's struck me the most about being a father it's two fundamental lessons you learn very early on. Firstly, that no matter what you say or how you say it, children will do what you do, not what you say. They will mimic your habits, maybe even your worst, right before your eyes. Even to the point that they'll make you feel somewhat uncomfortable having to confront a copy of yourself.

And then there's the rapid realization that time is precious, how limited it is, and also how quickly it disappears. To be honest, I've always harboured a sensitivity for time, constantly aware of how I invest it, or how much of it I dedicate to others. But having a kid has put that straight into overdrive, most likely exaggerated by the fact that children, when very young, can go through drastic changes in appearance and behavior over just a couple of days.

"time is the only currency that you can't negotiate or get a refund"

So, I've come to the realization that it's probably a good time to go independent, and head out to see how I can add value on my own. I know that what I want is to work with projects that pose a meaningful social impact, that make a difference, and that can transform the world into a place that's maybe just a little bit better for my son. I think that's probably the best thing I could possibly offer him as a role model worth following.

Over the next year I'll be looking out for interesting opportunities that head my way. Probably making a few investments in some startups; whether economically, with my technical experience, or both. And I might even put life into a few ideas I have, who knows.

Watch this space.